The Saline cross country teams took second competed in their first conference meet Thursday at Willow Metro Park.
In the boys’ varsity races, Saline finished third, behind defending state champions, Pioneer and Chelsea. Chelsea won with 63 points. Pioneer, 67, Saline, 69, and Dexter, 72, were nipping at the Bulldogs’ heels.
The Saline girls varsity team was second behind Pioneer. Pioneer won with 29 points. Saline was second with 54. Pinckney finished third with 83 points.
In the junior varsity boys’ race – Saline won with 26 points after the Hornets placed the three top runners in the race. Saline nearly completed the sweep in the junior varsity girls’ race, winning the event with the top four runners and the sixth place runner.
In the varsity boys’ race, Nick Foster and John Florence, of Pioneer, took the top two spots. They were followed in by Carson Rabbit and Foster Thorburn, of Chelsea. Saline senior Simon Pfeiffer was the fastest Hornet, placing fifth in 16:06.6.
Junior William Minette (7th, 16:10.5), junior Cole Trese (15th, 16:41.4), sophomore Emmett Berryhill (19th, 16:48.7), and junior Christian Clisham, (23rd, 16:59.1) also placed in the Hornet top five to account for Saline’s scoring. Junior Christopher Van Dyke, senior Jevin Nishioka, senior Brock Boze, junior Nathan Irgang, and senior Will Downey also raced for varsity.
Coach Carl Spina liked the way his team ran.
“I'm really proud of how the boys raced today. We're always trying to win, but I don't think we can walk away from today's race with a whole lot of disappointment. We had a lot of young and inexperienced guys run well for us in a varsity situation, and that's exciting. They get it,” Spina said. “The SEC is a pretty productive conference. The defending D1 and D2 state champions are both from the SEC, and every year we have two or three teams in the top ten of the finals, so running well here means we can run well against anyone. The ride home was a fun one.”
Simon Pfeiffer ran a great race despite competing with a broken bone in his leg. Spina was impressed by the determination of the senior.
“Simon amazes me. A week ago, it looked like his season might be over because of a break in his leg. And today he threw down one of the top-ten fastest times in the state. I'm really impressed with how he's managed the ups and downs of that injury, and the work he has done to get himself to where he is. Last Thursday, he was struggling to walk, and today he just crushed it. He's got a fire in his belly that isn't going away any time soon,” Spina said.
Spina was also happy to see junior Cole Trese’s pre-season performance translate into regular-season success.
“Cole Trese has looked like our number three in practice. Doing it in time trials and practice is one thing,but doing it in a race is another. He's a self-made man. I'm so impressed with that kid,” Spina said. “The progress he has made this year is just amazing. Last year, he was a third-string kind of kid. This year, he's our third man. And he just keeps his nose to the grindstone, head down and working. I really admire the kid.”
The Saline girls were a distant second to Pioneer (29 to 54. But they were even further ahead of the third place Pinckney (83) in the varsity contest. The race was won by Pinckey’s Noelle Adriaens, who finished in 18:16. She was followed in by Pioneer’s Sarah Forsyth and Anna Vogel. Pioneer placed five girls in the top 10.
Saline’s fastest runner was Kayla Fortino, who completed the course in 19:18.5. Fortino ran just behind the lead back for most of the race before falling off at the end. Also finishing in the scoring for the Hornets were Nikki Dillman (8th, 19:40), Madison Stern (11th, 19:57), Jenna Allman (13th, 20:06), and Taylor Yaklich (16th, 20:11). Ella Woehlke, Madi Wood, Emma Cummings, Claire Endres, and Haley Greene.
Stern, Yaklich Wood and Endres are freshmen. Coach Spina said the promising freshman are learning a lot from Fortino, their senior leader, and it’s already paying off.
“We have a lot of very good freshmen this year. The pipeline just refilled in ways we didn't necessarily expect,” Spina said. “Our girls are tough and ambitious, and I don't think they care where the talent is. They just want to win a title. Kayla Fortino does a great job setting that tone. Whatever our girls do for the next few years is going to have her fingerprints all over it.”
Spina said the freshmen played a big role in the second place finish.
“The whole second-half of our varsity girls lineup were mostly rookies to varsity racing, so we were glad to see them run well in that situation. Individually, Madi Wood had the best day for us. She took a big step forward and went from part of the depth of the team to a potential scorer for us,” Spina said.
Maddie Stewart won the junior varsity race in 20:59. She was followed in by Ava Ignacio, Luda Allig and Katelyn Szafranski. Maekayla Rice finished sixth to complete the Hornet scoring. Kate Weeden and Resse Marston also finished in the top 10.
Jonathan Speers won the junior varsity boys’ race in 17:37.7, leading a 1-2-3 finish for the Hornets. He was followed by Jacob Brunty and Noah Pelletier. Kyle Lentine and Luke Crowner also finished in the scoring for Saline.